We had an interesting reminder this week of an experience that we had more than 35 years ago. Saturday afternoon we were out trying to take pictures of members. Having already captured 267 photos you can well imagine that all the low hanging fruit has been gathered, but we figure it’s like eating an elephant, you just keep at it one bite at a time. On Saturday we finally caught Michelle at home and had a pleasant visit with her. We have never seen her at home but have given her cookies and Liahona’s for nearly 16 months at her work. During one of our first visits to her, Sister Johnsen asked if we could take her picture, but she politely declined. On Saturday her response to this same question was, “Not today.” It reminded us of an earlier event that Sister Johnsen was able to have published in MormonTimes. Here is the story:
“During our first Christmas together, my husband, Gary, and I did what many BYU students do, we piled into the car with siblings and drove home. Home for my husband is Minnesota, and it is a long and sometimes treacherous drive in the winter.
We had been traveling for hours when Gary’s sister, Connie, took over the driving at about 2:00 A.M. None of us thought to check the gas gauge. When she did finally notice, the gauge registered empty. Connie woke us all up, and we tried to decide what to do. We didn’t think we had enough gas to make it to the next service station so we exited the freeway, but all the stations in the nearby town were closed.
The country lane we drove down to the next town was very dark and deserted. The temperature in Nebraska that night was frigid--double digits below zero. And then, we ran out of gas, and the car stopped. What would we do now? Gary and his brother, Lee, got out of the car and walked toward some lights they saw down the road. Connie and I stayed in the car and prayed. I was 6 months pregnant with our first child. I was cold and scared.
Gary and Lee came to a farmhouse about one mile away. They woke up the resident of the house, and told him our situation. They asked him to sell them just enough gas to get to a station.
His response was surprising: “Not today.” Not today?? The brothers went back on the road and walked two more miles to the next farmhouse, and were able to buy gas. It was enough to get us to a gas station. Thirty seven years have passed since we asked that farmer for gas. We have never been back to ask if is “today” might be the right day.
At the time, we were disappointed and couldn’t believe that this farmer wasn’t willing to help us. Over the years, though, I have realized that often we are also like that farmer—waiting for convenient moments to serve.
My husband and I have found that there will always be opportunities in our lives to perform service, but certain moments in time, and various kinds of service only come along once in a lifetime.
We have also learned that service often requires sacrifice, and I truly believe that this is the best kind of service because it brings with it the blessings of heaven. Elder Dallin H. Oaks reminds us, “Our Savior teaches us to follow Him by making the sacrifices necessary to lose ourselves in unselfish service to others. If we do, He promises us eternal life, “the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7)” (Ensign, May 2009)”
Since we’re down to our last 5 weeks in Palau, we probably won’t have a chance to contact Michelle again before we leave. In the grand scheme of things whether her picture is in LDS tools directory probably doesn’t matter, but the idea that sticks with us is that Today, While the Sun Shines we must work with a will, today, all our duties with patience we fulfill (see Hymn 229).
We had a good example of working with a will on Tuesday while we were moving dirt from one side of Diane’s house to the other side as a service project (that seems to have no end in sight). There’s no way to get any heavy equipment in to do the work, so all the elders just pretended they were human backhoes. Using picks, shovels and wheelbarrows they moved dirt until hands were too blistered to continue. They have probably completed 10% of the dirt moving task. It definitely won’t be done in the foreseeable future, but the plan is just to keep pecking away, one bite at a time while the sun shines.
We can definitely say that the Elder’s are continuing to work with a will. This past week Elder Gubler and Dopp taught 62 lessons, and Fullmer and Pauga taught 37. In total they were just one lesson shy of 100.
Another person this week who was willing to keep going was Barbara Gilson. She came to Palau to visit her husband, Larry, who is working here for the next year. Barbara arrived in Palau at 4:30 A. M., but came to Sacrament meeting at 9:00 A.M. and was our concluding speaker. She told about their long marriage, and how Larry stood by her after a car accident that left her with a serious brain injury. It took four years to recover. It was during those years that she joined the church (Larry has yet to join). She also told of her love for the gospel. Her husband was definitely an example of both work and love, as he cared for her and stayed with her while she healed.
Our “work” is winding down here in Palau as we continue to take member’s pictures, create a “Welcome to Palau” transition booklet, prepare member thumbnail sketches and continue to do all the regular work that occurs weekly. We know that that the sun (metaphorically) in Palau will continue to shine on the work we do here in Palau for the remaining days of our mission.
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